Stala & So. Interview: “People are into Having a Good Time”

Stala & So is about harmony. They are refined, down to earth with full of joy.

The band members are Stala (vocals), Nick Gore (Bass guitar, back vocals), Sami J. (lead guitar, back vocals), Pate Vaughn (rhythm guitar, back vocals) and Hank (drums).
The band was formed with Stala and Nick back in 1997 as So. Years went by and people came and went.

In 2010, they started the band again with a new lineup as Stala & So. This was mainly because they were invited to participate in the Finnish Eurovision song contest.

Their natural talents are complimented with an academic background. Stala studied singing and drumming. Sami studied sound engineering and Pate studied building of instruments.

The members live in Finland. Stala and Nick live in Helsinki. Sami, Pate and Hank live in Riihimäki, Lapua and Vihti, respectively.

They released couple of demos and EPs as So. in late nineties. The first Stala & So. album “It Is So.” was released in early 2011. Then they released a five song EP “Gimme Five” in late 2011. Their second album “Play Another Round” was released this year.

Their songs are about life, relationships, having a good time and feeling the good vibe, says Sami and Nick.

Why those particular themes?

Stala & So.Sami: We’re not trying to save the rain forests like Bono or Sting, let them do it since they’re good at it :)

Nick: We like the kind of music that we play and we hope that we can transfer the message and emotion to the listeners as well. When I write lyrics, I have to have some kind of a story in mind. The themes mentioned above offer the endless amount of topics to write about. We are not a political band and we are not offering opinions about the problems of the world. We want to enjoy life and music is a great way for spreading the good message!

Stala: Like Nick said, there needs to be a story. In “Hey What’s Going On?” I had a house party in my mind. You know swimming pools, naked chicks, beer, angry neighbor… ;)

What are your early musical influences?

Sami: Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Van Halen and David lee Roth (with Steve Vai) Dio, Deep Purple, Frank Zappa. My older brother had a huge David lee Roth poster on his wall and I was just fascinated by it even though I had little knowledge of who he was but I just thought that whatever a guy who looks like that might be up to it must be fun and that is what I want to do… around that time a caught an old VHS copy of Led Zeppelin’s Song Remains the Same and it’s been downhill from there :)

Stala: Finnish band called Dingo and later Kiss.

Stala & So.

When did you first feel like you may have a future as a singer?

Stala: I’ve been singing since I was a little boy. I remember singing to the cows at my grandparent’s farm. Singing has always been like a spiritual thing for me.

I feel I’m alive when I sing. Luckily there’s people who like my singing and my sound.

Which song would you identify as the beginning of Stala & So.?

Stala: Spring Romance from It Is So. and Back On The Road from Gimme Five are the oldest songs that we are still performing live with this lineup. I wrote those songs back in 1995-1996.

Sami: For me it was Back together (it was called Everlasting back then) and Rockstar.

How do you mange lyric writing?

Stala: Each band member gives their touch to songs.

Nick: On the new album we used rather effective and inspirational method in writing the lyrics. Sami J, Stala and I had many long e-mail sessions, lasting several hours, where we just tossed the ideas back and forth and pretty much wrote the lyrics together sentence by sentence.

That was very intensive way to write and also very productive. We managed to write good stuff, lots of ideas were flying around and the lyrics were “approved” by the three of us on the spot so there was no arguing about them later!”

Sami: We bounce emails back and forth sometimes well into the night but that way everyone gets their ideas into the mix and still gets to work in their own privacy.

How about the story of “Rock Until I’m Done”?

Stala: Me and my friend Jani Hölli wanted to do an 80’s up-tempo song and there you go. Lyrics are about me being young and desperate to do music as a profession.

I was driving my car and I was waiting traffic light to turn to green when “rock until I’m done” came into me as a title. It is our “I Wanna Rock.”

What is “the Boys are having fun” about to each of you?

Sami: I think the song title and the lyrics explain that one on their own.

Nick: The Boys Are Having Fun is a good example of the “having fun”- theme and it is an up-tempo song in a major key. The story could be about a group of friends spending their summer day or it could have a certain gay-vibe as well. It depends how you look at it! Everyone can make their own opinion about it, in my opinion the song tells about Stala & So.

Stala: It is our version of “Dancing in the Street.” How come Nick always gets that gay-vibe… :D

How do you collaborate with directors of your music videos?

Sami: The ideas kinda just build up over time and we use the best of them…

Nick: The director of our first video, Bye Bye, was Nadi Hammouda, a great photographer who had also done some video projects as well. We had a meeting with him and he understood our band and our visual image and he really liked us. He shared the same vision with us and the whole video shooting process was really professional and fast. Everybody just knew what to do and how to do it!

Both Hey, What’s Goin’ On? and The Boys Are Having Fun -videos were written, directed, shot (about 90%) and edited by ourselves. We knew what we were looking for so we decided to do them on our own. It was intensive work, especially the editing part, but both videos are great and the most important thing is that they really represent what we are as a band. There is really good vibe on both of those videos and they make us smile so they also make our fans smile as well!

Stala: Pate has a big role on our last videos. He’s our visual mastermind.

What bothers you the most in singing in English?

Sami: To work around not using the common “ooh baby” clichés :)

Being bilingual must make some difference to you in creativity.

Sami: The original thought might come in mind in Finnish and then you try to translate it into English but usually it’s more about a bigger concept that you’re trying to put into words.

Nick: I’ve never written that much lyrics in Finnish so I guess it makes the writing in English a little bit easier. Personally I am thinking in English when I write.

Finnish and English are so far apart from each other that you can’t really mix them in your head. At least I can’t! Of course I’m checking the story line in Finnish too when I write but you can’t get too attached to that. You have to get yourself to the English “flow”!

How do you cope with the competition in singing songs in English against native speakers in the same genre?

StalaSami: We try to push the production in that regard to a high enough level so that it doesn’t become an issue, then again having a particular kind of accent in your pronunciation isn’t always necessarily a bad thing (think about someone like Björk)

Stala: …or Scorpions

Nick: It is something that you’re not really thinking of. To me the whole experience about the band I see on stage makes the difference, not the singing language of the band or the potentially funny-sounding lyrics from the non-native singer. If the band is good looking, having fun and performing well (like us!) it really doesn’t matter if there is some funny words or sentences coming out from the singer’s mouth! Of course this is just my opinion!

In relation to perception and acceptance, does the Finnish audience differentiate on listening an English song from a Finnish band?

Sami: Nowadays the importance of lyrics has kinda downgraded but in general I think people in Finland understand English way well enough to grasp what the lyrics are about.

What differences do you think Finnish musicians offer vis-à-vis to English musicians in the context of above question?

Sami: Just a wider range of accents I guess.

Nick: I think that the Finnish bands, including us, have some unique things to offer, both music- and lyrics wise. The English stuff that we write might sound somehow exotic and corky and musically we have a great mix of songs on both minor- and major key. That versatility makes the music interesting.

What would your advices be for new start up bands singing in English that want to break in Finland?

Nick: In a nutshell; 1. Write good and catchy melodies. 2. Focus on the lyrics. Make sure that they are not wrong or sound too funny! 3. Rehearse until you are so good that nobody has nothing negative to say about you 4. Play a lot, be sincere and try to win the fans to your side every night!

Sami: Don’t get caught in the most obvious choice of words and just try to sound as natural as you can get, and smile, big smile.

Stala: If you want to break in Finland, sing in Finnish.

What advices would you have for groups preparing for the Eurovision?

Nick: If you want to participate and possibly make it on the ESC, you have to be something real, genuine and edgy, something that people can relate to or something that they can touch and feel. The only Finnish winner Lordi is a great example of the genuine and true artist/band. The whole thing is done with such a passion and that makes it genuine and real!

Sami: Wear lots of make-up :)


For anyone who is new to Finland or want to go professional, what steps should they take to be where you are now?

Sami: Don’t give up and keep on going – thats actually a Frank Zappa quote :)

Stala: Patience, lots of patience.

What will be Stala & So. doing tomorrow and the next day and onwards?

Sami: We try to make the best music we can and leave the people smiling after experiencing our gigs or music, it doesn’t matter if you’re in China, people are into having a good time.

Thank you, Stala & So.

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